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The Year of Self-Compassion Goals

The Year of Self-Compassion Goals

Maybe this is the year…

  • You make memories instead of resolutions
  • You count smiles instead of calories
  • You cut the sizes out of your clothes instead of cutting out sugar or bread
  • You sign up for more sleep instead of more fitness classes
  • You step into your own abundance instead of trying to shrink yourself in all possible ways
  • You practice self-compassion instead of shame
  • You move your body how and when you want to and not how and when you think you “should”
  • You get a new friend instead of a new PR
  • You find curiosity instead of judgment
  • You collect resiliency instead of counting failures
  • You find joy in the details instead of stress in the big picture
  • You find unconditional self-love instead of conditional expectation
  • You see your wholeness and strength instead of your brokenness 
  • You recognize your unconditional, unchanging worth instead of the hustling to prove your value to the world
  • You slow down instead of speeding up
  • You breathe into the unknown instead of trying to control all the outcomes
  • You scream for fury, rage, grief, and joy instead of holding it all in
  • You decide to “want to” instead of “have to”
  • You take things OFF your To Do List instead of chronically adding to it
  • You connect with yourself and others instead of metrics and milestones
  • You look back and celebrate how far you’ve come instead of looking ahead at how far you think you still have to go
  • You step into 2024 knowing you are complete, whole, beautiful, and loved, just as you are

Welcoming Darkness

Welcoming Darkness

Have you ever thought about the reality that almost everything that has life began life in darkness? Giant Sequoias began their life as small seeds nestled into the dark, damp earth. Potatoes and carrots start and finish growing inside the dark earth. You and I, we began life enclosed in the soft, rich, and profoundly dark wombs of our mother’s bellies. As I contemplate all the variety of life that I know of, I can hardly come up with any exceptions to this reality: It is in darkness that growth begins.

The environments we all began in were full of everything we needed to develop and progress. They were nutrient-dense lodgings that infused us with all we needed.  Was the darkness a bystander witness to our processes? Or a necessary, intimate part of that development? 

I like believing that darkness is a vital companion in our growth. I like believing that darkness is an insulator, a protector, and space holder for the hard work that is growing. It helps me reframe the sense of foreboding I feel as daylight savings ends and we are officially plunged into the darkness of impending winter. And not to be the harbinger of bad news, but for those of us in the northern hemisphere, we will continue to march toward more darkness until December 21st.

Darkness is the hardest part of winter for me. I can handle cold and wet and ice and snow. It’s the darkness that feels the heaviest to hold. 

But maybe darkness isn’t something that weighs me down but rather offers to enfold me? Maybe the darkness isn’t a foe or force that is somehow “against” me, or something to endure. Maybe the darkness is actually a companion and source of potential growth? Maybe it’s in this space that more growth awaits and invites me? 

It is cliché but often true, that the most profound growth always happens in the deepest, darkest moments of our lives. Darkness offers us the most beautiful gifts this way. Darkness believes in us and holds us as we do the work that is ours alone to do. 

We’ve all heard the quote spoken by Martin Luther King Jr. said, “But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.” Stars are found in the vast galaxies of space. They are far beyond our solar system and realm of existence. We have to be plunged into darkness to find them. In this metaphor, it is the darkness that reveals them. It is in darkness that we connect to these inspiring, expansive sources of wisdom. 

Darkness is here. Instead of wishing it away or fighting against it, I am going to let it hold me and invite me toward my work. May we all pass these upcoming months with less suffering in this way. May we be gentle with ourselves and be held in the darkness that encourages our growth. May we all look up on cold, dark winter nights and breathe in the stars revealed to us.

Lessons for Fall

Lessons for Fall

  1. Change is the constant. Did you just roll your eyes? Honestly, I roll my eyes at the cliched memes, “Fall reminds us how beautiful it is to let go.” And it’s not wrong. I love how the earth goes out in a fiery blaze of glory before settling in for a long winter sleep. The earth models for us that change, whether subtle or explosive, is our life constant. I can rage against this natural order, as I often want to, or I can try to take a note from the celestial goddess that is the earth and breathe into change.
  2. There is another cliched meme associated with fall, but this time, it doesn’t make me roll my eyes. It is that fall reminds us that we aren’t made to bloom in every season. The earth unapologetically models this as she stops her work, slows her growth, and settles into rest. Why do we chronically expect ourselves to grow, perform, excel, or “have it all together?!” The earth embraces her own chaos and models that there are seasons for growth and seasons for slowing down and resting. 
  3. Speaking of resting, hibernation isn’t just for bears. As fall invites us to have more psychological flexibility with ourselves, it also invites us to have more physical flexibility. The longer nights and colder days invite us to slow down and collect ourselves from the frenetic, energized experiences that were spring and summer. Just as we are programmed to have daily rhythms, it makes sense to me that we have annual rhythms. I believe there is beautiful intuition to noticing how the foods we crave change throughout the year, turning in the winter towards more hearty, comforting, and warm foods. I also organically want to sleep longer, which makes sense with less sunlight, but I also think holds an intuitive piece to it. I mean, honestly, who of us wouldn’t benefit from more sleep?! This is a time of year when the invitation is really clear to tune into what our bodies need and honor the soft call towards more rest.
  4. Changing seasons bring changing moods. We can be gentle about changing moods that accompany changing seasons. I have a repetitive conversation about fall that mostly goes like this, “Fall is my favorite season! I just hate how short it is before such a long winter!” Winter is the season that shows up most disruptively and abruptly. And then it is long, dark, and hard. I have to psychologically prepare myself for it every year. And in anticipatory dread, I often notice my moods feel erratic and unpredictable in fall. My moods spike with profound feelings of happiness, joy, and aw, and then plummet to sadness and a sense of ambiguous grief. And I am going to offer myself compassion for an internal roller coaster that shows up right now. It just is what it is, and that’s ok. The earth doesn’t apologize for her big moods. She just lets them wash over her and around her and holds them as they do their work before moving on and changing yet again. 

I hope to continue to soak up all that is fall for as long as I can and to be open to all its wisdom. 

The Nature Fix

The Nature Fix

We have entered my absolute favorite season of the year for hiking. This time of year, the earth really likes to show off her colors! If you know me, you know that I have to get into nature at least once a week as a baseline need for my self-care. I have found nothing else in the world provides me the psychological benefits that mother earth provides.

Stress Reduction: I stress out a lot. Too much. Hiking in nature, away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, significantly and quickly reduces my stress levels. Research has shown that exposure to nature lowers cortisol. The sounds of birds chirping, the rustling of leaves, and the sight of natural, beautiful landscapes have a calming effect on our overly active brains. 

Enhanced Mood: This is probably my main reason for hiking. As someone who has a history of mental health concerns and a vulnerability to them, I take managing my mental health very seriously. Nature is a space where my mood feels the lightest, most peaceful, and happiest. Hiking triggers the release of endorphins, which can lead to an immediate mood lift. I took my daughter on a hike this weekend, and she commented on how friendly everyone was on the trail. I told her, “Yes, nature just makes people nicer and happier.” 

Improved Mental Clarity and Presence: The simplicity of hiking – putting one foot in front of the other – helps me be more present and work through my life’s demands without constant stimulation and distraction. Being in nature also helps reduce my problems to their “appropriate size.” I am certainly culpable of inflating the importance of my life’s “problems” and demands. Nature reminds me of my space in the world and helps me hold all of these things more lightly.

Connection to Nature: Hiking transports me into a world so much vaster and bigger than myself. Specifically, I feel connected to our incredible Earth and feel so grateful to be on this journey of life. I hold the paradox of feeling a deep sense of belonging while also feeling small and unimportant. This paradox and connection to something so profoundly incredible as our Earth enhances my sense of well-being. 

Social Connection: Sometimes, I hike alone when I need to decompress and work through internal concerns. Other times, I really enjoy hiking in the company of others. Hiking provides a unique space where we aren’t distracted by our phones or anything else in life pulling for our attention. As a result, some of my life’s best conversations and meaningful connections happen hiking with friends. Group hikes offer opportunities for shared experiences, new memories, and meaningful conversations.

Boost in Self-Esteem: When I hike, I have a unique experience of both being completely embodied, and forgetting about my body. I do not hike for specific metrics like distance, or elevation gain, etc. I hike for the experience of beauty and connection. That said, I also feel a deep sense of satisfaction when I arrive at an incredible vista, summit, mountain lake, or waterfall. Hiking provides a sense of accomplishment that can boost self-esteem and self-efficacy. These feelings of accomplishment extend beyond the trail and positively impact self-worth.

Hiking is not merely a leisure activity; it’s a therapeutic journey. Unlike any other therapy, nature offers, in one combination package, the power to reduce stress, improve mood, and connect to ourselves, others, and something profoundly bigger than ourselves. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or new to the trails, I hope you’ll venture into nature to experience these benefits for yourself. Your mental health will thank you. 

Is Embodied: A Body Acceptance Group for you?

Is Embodied: A Body Acceptance Group for you?

Is Embodied: A Body Acceptance Group for you? 

Did you know that in our Western culture, negative body image is so pervasive that researchers call this “normative discontent”? That is, it is considered normal to loathe our bodies!

While this, sadly, may be considered “normal,” it is not a benign experience. 

“Ultimately, what body hatred costs us—individually and collectively—is the fullness of life. We lose out on the goodness that comes through our body. And if we are our body, we miss out on experiencing our own goodness and the presence and wisdom that comes from a deep connection to ourselves. We also lose out on connection with others…There is so much goodness within and between us because of our bodies,” (Hillary McBride, PhD). 

As someone who has transformed my own relationship with my body, I am on a mission to help others transform theirs. I do not believe we should accept “normative discontent” as the landing place for our relationships with our bodies. I believe in our ability to heal and transform, individually and collectively, our experiences with our bodies, and, subsequently, ourselves. 

This fall, I am starting another round of Embodied: A body acceptance group. I honestly believe that group is the most powerful venue to confront and change our experiences with our bodies. There is profound power and beauty in the collective experience that group therapy offers. While group can feel vulnerable, it is also the great unifier that threads our experiences together. Joining a community of fellow life travelers, who also want a different experience for themselves and their bodies, is validating, hopeful, and powerful. In group, you are on your own journey, while also witnessing, supporting, and championing others on theirs. Their stories and experience will impact you, just as yours will impact them. Together the group celebrates victories and offers compassion and perspective for the struggle. You are not alone on your journey, and I hope you will join us as we create something beautiful together.

Embodied is a structured 12-week group that combines experiential activities and group process. The group progresses through different themes, building on previous weeks’ activities to build insight, facilitate healing, and accelerate body acceptance. Through engaging in the group, group members will feel more connected to themselves and each other.  

But don’t just take my word for it. Here is some of what previous group members have said about their experience in the Embodied Group:

“I really enjoyed being in group every Monday evening with a group of amazing ladies! I didn’t miss once and really feel like I gained some clarity of my journey and regained some lost confidence.”

“It has helped me be more appreciative of my body! It’s also helped me realize the lies I’ve believed for so many years.”

“I feel more aware of my self-perceptions and how my body actually feels. There is a growing connection that has started, too, and I’m beginning to be kinder to myself and my body.”

“The work made me want to befriend my body- check in on what she is asking from me and remember that we are a team. I am so willing to give her what she wants rather than what I think the world wants for her.”

“It has given me a whole new perspective.”

If you wish for a better relationship with your body, I hope you will consider joining our Embodied group this fall. The group will start on Monday, September 25th, and run Monday evenings from 5:30 pm-7 pm at Balance Health and Healing. I hope to see you there!